My Communications Infrastructure is led by Google Voice (with teammates the iPhone and Ooma)

In the last month I have completely revamped my communications infrastructure, hopefully for the better.

Here are the before and after pictures.

Before


After


Yep. I am using Google Voice as a hub for phone communications. My Google Voice number will be a primary number for people to contact me. Depending on the person calling, Google Voice will forward to my iPhone, my home phone, my spouse's mobile phone or any combination of the three. (With Google Voice, you can actually get so granular that you can forward to different numbers based on the person calling, have a different greeting for any person, and a different voicemail message for any person or group of people). And I can add or remove phones from the forwarding mechanism at my leisure because my Google Voice number will shield anyone who calls from the black box that is now my web of communication facilities.

Sure people will still call my iPhone directly. And I expect some people to do that as it is my primary line for business discussions, etc. But for a majority of people, calling the Google Voice number will be all that is needed.

And, as what I am seeing as a huge money saver, I have left Vonage (where I was paying $20-25/mo) and came to Ooma. I paid $199+tax at Costco for free U.S. calls for life. Ooma has premium services that you can pay for, but at this point, since I have Google Voice, I don't see the need just yet. (Note: I had no real negative issues with Vonage. The service was actually very good for the time I had it. But, you can't blame someone for trying to save some money).

What if Ooma goes out of business? Well, that's the beauty of Google Voice. I can remove Ooma and add something else to the infrastructure and no one would be the wiser. People know the Google Voice number and don't really care how (and with what device) I answer the phone on the other side. I am actually considering adding a Skype phone number to my account to see if I can forward numbers to the Skype number for the times I am away from my home and online.

Here are my assumptions about using Google Voice as a communications hub:

  1. Google is not going out of business anytime soon. Thus, my Google Voice number can be my number for life.
  2. Google Voice will continue to be free (or ad supported), or some reasonable charge if it comes to that.
  3. Google Voice will keep my privacy just as well as the government does with respect to my phone calls ;-)

We'll see how this all plays out; but right now I feel excited with my new setup.

Google Voice is in beta right now, but you can sign up for an invitation and these invitations are going out daily.


Installing LAMP and Wordpress on Slicehost (or elsewhere) Redux

[Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any mishaps that may occur by following these steps or advice because you follow them out of your own free will.] — I figure I better put that up-front, again.
:)

My original post on installing a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) server with Wordpress seems to have helped at least a few people.

I have since come up with a few more random, but I think helpful, tidbits since writing that post. I will list them here.

Basic Commands

'ls -alR' for a recursive look at all owners and groups, etc.

Transferring your Blog to Wordpress.org

If you are importing your blog from somewhere else and the upload doesn't seem to be working (e.g., when you click the "Import" button you see no screen changes and/or you the browser is just "spinning"):

  • create uploads directory in wp-content
  • you may have to set wp-content to chmod 777 permissions for import
    - first try 755 on uploads. If it doesn't work, then
    - then try 777 on uploads. If it doesn't work, then
    - then try 777 on wp-content
  • revert everything back to 755, or what you had it before

If you are moving from wordpress.com to wordpress.org and you need your blogroll, you need to export this separately (it is not included as part of the normal export from wordpress.com). You go to http://your-wordpressDOTcom-domain.com/wp-links-opml.php and save the XML you see and then import via the blogroll/import capability (or you can just enter the link to the opml I mentioned before right in the blogroll import). Note the export only seems to work in Firefox and IE. Safari gave me a blank page.

SSL

If you want SSL for Apache - sudo a2enmod SSL (see article)

If you want SSL for your Wordpress administration areas, enable SSL for wp-admin (See documentation)

For SSL resolution -- if you are only using SSL on one site and you have other sites, see this forum post.

Final Setup Steps for Wordpress

Make sure www-data has write access to the following --- Do a 'chmod -R g+w' on wp-content/themes,wp-content/uploads

For final permissions:

  • find public -type d | xargs chmod 0755
  • find public -type f | xargs chmod 0644 (files)
  • find public -type d | xargs chown username:www-data
  • find public -type f | xargs chown username:www-data

If testing your wordpress.org somewhere besides the live domain, make sure to remember this article before going live.

If you find images to be funky after going live -- like still pointing to your old domain or testbed site, you can manually do a search and replace in the database or use a plug in from here.

If file types should be working that aren't working (xsl, html), maybe add to the sites-available vhost the allowed file types for the certain directory in question. For example, I added xsl because of Google Sitemaps and wanting to view my sitemaps in the browser.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics code goes above the tag in the footer file of your Wordpress theme (see article)

WP Super Cache

If you are looking for a plugin that might speed up your blog by serving static, cached HTML instead of processing PHP constantly, then look to WP Super Cache. If you set up your LAMP server with Worpdress like I explained in my original post, then instead of using .htaccess, you will be putting any rules in the vhost -- especially in steps 7 and 8 in the installation instructions.

Exim

Maybe replace exim with an external smtp server.

'sudo /usr/sbin/exim4' to get access to exim commands (like seeing message queue -- exim4 -bp)

If exim4 is not working for Google Apps for some reason, check this out.


Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Company Spam and Scam

At 8:44 PM last night, I get this email in my Apple Mail inbox from someone named "lisa rey" with the subject "Idea for [joelmarcey.com]". Hey somebody has an idea for my blog!! Great! ;)

Ding! Obviously spam or a scam, without even opening the message. How do I know? Well, first the sender's name has no capitalization. What kind of professional uses a name without capitalizing the first letter of their first and last name? Secondly, the subject screams out programmatic email with the brackets being used as a key to insert website names.

So, what other giveaways are there? I decided to open the message:


So here is what I see

  1. Message was dated 6:46 PM and I got it 2 hours later. Not sure that means much.
  2. Email address has about 10 digits after the name ellie. So, there is obviously a program generating email addresses. I mean, come on, at least have lisarey123456789@gmail.com ;)
  3. The greeting addresses me as "Website Owner". Another indication of automation and spamming is not addressing you by your real name.
  4. An address, but no company name or link to company website. They even say "Our company is on the first page when you search on Google for our primary search term 'SEO Company'". REALLY? But you won't tell me what the name of your company is, huh? (btw, here is the search result for "SEO Company" on Google.
  5. They say "Simply reply with opt out if not interested to hear from us". Not very good English, if you ask me.
  6. I also did a search on Google and found other people seeing these types of emails.

So I wonder what would happen if I replied?? Not sure I am going to try to find out :-)


My First International (Spanish) Comment Spam

Well, comment spam is coming at me in other languages now. Here is the latest gem that my blog spam filter caught:

Hola a todos, en mi primer post me gustaría compartir algo con vosotros, Ya sabéis que para buscar y descargar música en internet, tenemos muy pocas opciones, generalmente utilizamos el emule o el ares, pero yo personalmente encuentro bastante frustrante bajarme una canción y que no sea la que busco, porque pierdo bastante tiempo encontrando material de calidad.
Una amiga me recomendó utilizar Altavz como mi buscador de música, y la verdad es una gozada.
Además de poder escuchar la canción, descargarla o agregarla a tus listas preferidas puedes encontrar a otros usuarios y compartir tu música con ellos.
Hace mucho que no utilizo emule, sino este [url=http://www.altavz.com][b]buscador de música[/b][/url].

Which, using Google Translator, loosely means: :-)

Hello everybody, my first post I'd like to share something with you, You know that
search and download music online, we have very few options, we generally use
emule or ares, but I personally find it quite frustrating to get a song and
I'm looking for is not because I lose time finding enough quality material.

A friend recommended I use as my browser Altavz music, and really enjoyed one.

Besides being able to hear the song, download it or add it to your favorite lists can
finding other users and share your music with them.

Long time do not use emule, but it [url = http://www.altavz.com] [b] finder
music [/ b] [/ url].

Well, spammer, thank you for the "useful" information.


Google Chrome is "Officially" Released; and Gmail is still in Beta?

  imageimage

Well, talk about interesting. As seen in this article, Google has dropped the beta label from its web browser, called Chrome.

  Why do I find this interesting? Well, a product coming out of beta into release is actually kinda normal in software development. But, I have been using Gmail for over 4 years, and it is still in Beta!! I even wrote about this before.

  Something tells me that Gmail is a little more stable than Chrome at this point in time. Maybe I am wrong. Heck, though, there isn’t even a Mac version of Chrome yet! :-)

How I Resolved the “There Was A Problem with this Installation. Windows Live Suite Was Not Installed” Catastrophic Error

So I wanted to install the latest version of Windows Live Mail. I figured OK, that should be easy. (Note: I am running Vista x64 w/ SP 1)

I went to http://www.windowslive.com/Explore/Mail and clicked on the Get It Now Button

image

then I clicked on Download Now

image

 

After clicking on Run for the Windows Live Installer, accepting the agreement and allowing it to try to start installing, I got this:

 

image

I was thinking what the heck is this. I tried again, and same thing.

So I did what every person would do in this situation – GOOGLE!

Doing a search with these terms:

"There was a problem with this installation. Windows Live Suite was not installed" "Catastrophic Failure"

yields many results with help options like:

image

After thinking about this and really not wanting to go through a workaround for something that I think doesn’t require a workaround, I realized that I already did have Windows Live Writer installed. As such, I figured I would look into my Control Panel Add/Remove Programs.

And here is what I found:

image

Ahh Ha!

Right click on it and you will get an option to uninstall or change Windows Live Beta.

I then choose Install or uninstall

image

and click continue.

Then you get to a window that shows you all of the programs that you have not installed. And you click a check box to the one(s) you want to install, and it works like a charm!

image

I had already installed Mail Beta before I wrote this post; that is why this is checked.

There are two things that I am still unclear on:

  1. Why did the original installer still not work? Was it because I already had an installer available locally?
  2. Did I install the latest version of the Windows Live Mail Beta? I think so according to my research, but I am only 99.9% confident.

image

I hope this helps at least one person. Let me know if you have any questions.

If You Are A Yahoo! Stockholder, Are You Mad This Evening?

After seeing the news that Microsoft has abandoned its bid for Yahoo!, do you think the average Yahoo! shareholder is angry that they are unable to now get $33/share for Yahoo! stock, and instead is going to have to watch it (most likely) plummet down to around $20/share again -- the price it was at before Microsoft made its initial offer? I sure hope Jerry Yang and the Yahoo! Board of Directors know what they are doing. These are rich folks on the board and may not be able to see things through the eyes of the everyday shareholder.

Personally, I think they made the wrong decision to not accept Microsoft's $33/share offer this weekend. I honestly think it is a case of "I would rather have the ship sink than be with the "Evil Empire"....well, that wish might just come true. I hope not.

Steve Ballmer's letter to Jerry Yang is very interesting...and the response.

And how does Google feel??????

Microsoft offers 44.6 Billion for Yahoo!

[Update: It is 44.6 not 44.5 billion -- that 100 million may not be significant to Bill G., but it is to us mortals :-) ]

[Update: Would Microsoft try a hostile takeover if Yahoo! rejects the offer? That would be very interesting and a can of worms I am not sure Microsoft wants to open]

Yahoo! has not accepted this deal yet.

In the back of my mind, I knew this would happen. In fact, after Yahoo! reported earnings earlier this week, and the stock plummeted, I thought to myself "I bet Microsoft buys Yahoo! now". I didn't buy Yahoo! stock. :-( Oh well, woulda, coulda, shoulda, I guess.

Anyway, I am still chewing on this deal. Is it good for Microsoft? Is it good for Yahoo! Is it going to be a disaster a la Time Warner-AOL?

The big and obvious question is how Microsoft plans to integrate Yahoo! into its Windows Live offerings. That is a huge undertaking in my mind, and not a 100% slam dunk by any means. For example, what becomes of Yahoo! Mail -- does it get integrated into Windows Live Hotmail? Does Microsoft integrate Yahoo!'s search algorithm into its Windows Live Search?

And, not to mention the culture clash of the two companies. Yahoo! is already laying off 1000 people. Can Microsoft absorb the other Yahoo! employs, or will a mass layoff come?

And then comes the other side of the equation. How does this affect Google? Of course, this deal is a direct aim at Google. Google's stock is starting down after it reported "not great" (according to analysts) earnings last night. That doesn't really matter with respect to this deal, I don't think. It is a long term question -- will Google's dominance be affected by this deal in a negative fashion? This deal would make Microsoft the clear #2 in the search/advertising space, but could it make Microsoft #1?

Very interesting start to the morning, for sure.

When Is It Inappropriate To Blog?

I came across an interesting blog post today about Google's Intranet infrastructure. You can read the post for yourself, but let's just say it gives what appears to be inside information about how the Google intranet is structured, some of the interesting internal applications, etc.

Now, I said I found the post "interesting". The content is interesting on some level, I guess. But what is more interesting to me is whether the post should have been written at all.

Let me set some context.

After reading the article, I starting reading some of the comments. Here are three that stood out to me and made me think about writing this post.

  • From Alex: I am a googler and its disgusting to see this. This is privileged company information and its sick that a website is willing to post confidential information like this and more sick is the person who leaked this. This is what Google gets for all the trust it places in its employees. Truly pathetic!
  • From Stephen: Alex, We are investigating this leak. You can be assured the employees responsible for this will be dealt with appropriately.
  • From Tim: What a lame example of "paparazzi journalism" but I suppose it was to be expected. You may think that by finding someone willing to violate the trust and openness that Googlers enjoy that you've captured some of the magic of what goes on at Google, but you've only titillated yourself and are no where close. If you think the write-up was "interesting" and "informative," then you would really enjoy images of my drawers, complete with skidmarks and IP verification.

Of course, I am not sure whether any of these three are "googlers" (i.e. work at Google) or not. And I will probably never know. But, I got to wondering if these guys had a point.

Is it inappropriate to blog about a company's internal structure based upon "leaked" information (i.e. information not provided for public consumption)?

The bloggers were given information from what I assume is an anonymous Google source(s) and posted that information. If you grant me that blogging is a form of journalism, then this has been done by many a journalist. Now, I am not equating the severity of this situation to Deep Throat, nor am I saying they are necessarily apples to apples comparisons. What I am saying is that journalists are given anonymous tips and information all the time, and it is up to the journalist whether to go public with it.

I am a strong advocate of free speech/first amendment rights and all the good, and bad, that comes with those. So I am not so quick to judge that the bloggers in this case were wrong to publish this post. After reading the post, I did notice that some care was taken intentionally not to reveal certain pieces of information -- notice some of the grayed-out and blacked-out text in some of the images.

Do I believe the source of this information was in the wrong? I am going to assume that the source of the information was one or more Google employees  (current or former). If my assumption is correct, I have to imagine that a contract was signed by the employees in which it was stated not to reveal company information. So on the surface, maybe it was wrong. However, if all of the information posted on the blog can be found publicly somewhere, and, when you piece all of that public information together, you really don't have any inside information after all, then maybe the source was not so wrong. I did notice links in the post that took you to "official" posts about some of the internal working of Google. And what if, at a public conference, some Google executive mentioned other Google Intranet information? That is what I mean about piecing together.

The one sticking point that tends for me to believe that you can't piece together the information in the post from other public information are some of the images. Some may have been offered to the public, sure, but I can't imagine the Trax image or even the blacked-out employee information image is supposed to be in the wild. Maybe I a wrong? However, the blog post even has the following sentence: "The photo is used with permission from Zach at HannaCabana.com, though Zach tells me it had been anonymously submitted to him..." When I see the words "anonymously submitted", then that is one tip-off, in my opinion, that something probably isn't meant for the public.

So when is it inappropriate to blog about a topic? Never? Sometimes? That's a tough question that I am not sure I have the answer to. In this specific case, my gut tells me that an argument can be made that the post is borderline inappropriate; but not wrong. There is a difference. To me, inappropriate implies discretion while wrong implies falsities. I don't see anything here that is necessarily false.

Would I have made the blog post? Probably not. But, I don't fault the bloggers for the post. And, then again, I am indirectly blogging about it now with this post, aren't I?

Thoughts? Am I missing something from the post that would make my post here unwarranted?

P.S. Now, it is very possible that one of the following nicknames for a Google employee might be inappropriate :-) I let you figure out which one it is. Here is the quote from the post:

  • A “Googler,” as you may know, is what Google employees call themselves (they have other nicknames for specific roles; a noogler is a new Google employee, a gaygler is a gay one, a xoogler is an ex-one, and so on).

Why is Gmail Still Called Beta Software?

I have been using Gmail since early 2005. I believe I was an early adopter. It was called "beta" software back then. Perfectly sensible. OK, it is late 2007. I have over 5000 messages in my inbox (and that is even after a few month hiatus where I went back to Hotmail). Gmail has millions and millions of users.

So, why, oh why, is Gmail still called "Beta"?

I would really appreciate someone giving me an answer to that question. My thinking is that it is an "out" for Google in case something goes wrong with Gmail --- "Oh, it is beta software. Use at your own risk. If you are adverse to beta software risk, wait until the official release of Gmail, which will be......" NEVER!! :-)

Thank You Scott Hanselman

I sent Scott Hanselman an email this morning asking him how he likes Google Apps after a few months of real use. We are considering using them for hosting our business-related email. He answered the email within 2 hours. Now this is the same Scott Hanselman who runs the Hanselminutes podcast, a popular blog and just started to work for Microsoft. So it is not like he is just sitting around waiting to answer emails from complete strangers. And, btw, he does like Google Apps.

Thanks for the response, Scott. I do appreciate it.